JR Smith makes a couple birdies, struggles to 10-over 81 in college golf debut for North Carolina A&T

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JR Smith had a big, bright personality during his 16-year NBA career. Unfortunately for the former sharpshooting guard his scorecard was just as colorful in his college golf debut.

The 35-year-old two-time NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, who has enrolled at North Carolina A&T as a freshman walk-on, shot a 10-over 81 on Monday in the first round of the Elon Phoenix Invitational at Alamance Country Club in Burlington, North Carolina. Smith walked off the course tied for 79th after eight bogeys, two double bogeys, two birdies and six pars.

Elon’s Pedro Rabadan led after the first 18 holes with a 6-under 65.

For those thinking Smith’s time in Greensboro is a publicity stunt or that the former NBA star is taking someone’s place, don’t get it twisted. Smith is a walk on and earned his position not only on the team, but in this week’s lineup. According to the school, “All A&T golfers must qualify for each tournament in practice unless the golfer finishes first or second on the team in the previous tournament,” and Smith qualified for the Phoenix Invitational by one stroke.

While his score was dropped from the Aggies’ team total for the first round (the format is play five players, count your best four scores), Smith did beat one of his teammates in the first 18. Anthony Ford, competing as an individual, shot an 11-over 82.

“He has a good enough golf game to put up some good numbers,” said head coach Richard Watkins a week before Smith’s debut. “But this is what I tell people. If you want to find out how good a golfer really is, put the word tournament or money in front of the round. Playing when there is nothing on the line is one thing. But, put meaning to it, and the heart rate changes. The grip on the club changes, and we get to see who you really are.”

Smith will have another chance to show who he really is on the course in Monday afternoon’s second round, which is now underway.

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